Ski Jump Update

So many people have commented on my article posted nearly two years ago about the history of ski jumping in Minneapolis that I thought I should provide an update. I was prompted by an exchange of emails this week with Greg Fangel who is the owner of woodenskis.com, where he buys and sells wooden cross-country skis and provides a great deal of ski information and links to other skiing sites. I’ve edited together some of Greg’s emailed comments below, with thanks.

I’ve been an avid cross-country skier since 1974 and currently live in White Bear Lake. I’ve been researching ski history for the past 5 years or so, mostly from a Mpls/St. Paul/Minnesota point of view. In my research, ski jumping comes into play, since it’s Nordic and one of the early forms of competition. I personally know Norm Oakvik, who is mentioned in your blog.  He organized many events and coached USSA teams in Minneapolis. Norm is a legend in the cross-country ski community in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. I interviewed Norm in November of 1995 for a story in the Løype, a newsletter of the North Star Ski Touring Club.

Norm’s parents were from Norway and Norm started skiing in Minneapolis in the 1930-40s. He competed with the Minneapolis Ski Club in 1940-70s, specializing in Nordic combined in the early years. Nordic combined is ski jumping and cross-country skiing combined into one event. He was a driving force behind the National Nordic ski competition, which was held in Bloomington in 1976. Bill Koch came to ski that event.

In May of 2005 a few of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the Minneapolis ski community wanted to name a trail or system after Norm Oakvik at Theodore Wirth Park. We held a special meeting at Wirth with supporters and Norm present. Norm was so humble, that he didn’t want his name on the trails, even though he spent countless hours trail clearing, grooming, and coaching at Wirth. I don’t know how Norm is doing now, but he was recently in the hospital.

I’ve interviewed ski jumper Adrian Watt from Duluth who participated in the 1968 Winter Olympics and competed at the Glenwood jump in Minneapolis. He has some fascinating stories.

Minneapolis has a rich ski history and that should not be overlooked. We need to preserve that history for generations to come.

Greg Fangel

The ski jump at Glenwood (Wirth) Park in 1923 (Charles Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

The ski jump at Glenwood (Wirth) Park in 1923. (Charles J. Hibbard, Minnesota Historical Society)

Greg mentioned that he’s interested in putting together an exhibit on local skiing history for a possible new project at Wirth Park.

Over the past couple years, several veterans of the Minneapolis skiing scene have commented on my original post on Minneapolis ski history. If you haven’t looked at those comments in a while, check them out. Add your own stories either here or on the original post. Thanks!

If you haven’t kept track of what’s going on with cross-country skiing in Minneapolis parks you might be surprised to find out about current trails, especially at Wirth Park. Get more skiing info at minneapolisparks.org.

David C. Smith   minneapolisparkhistory[at]q.com

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2 comments so far

  1. JOAN HUNTER PUDVAN on

    HI DAVID,
    YOUR SKI JUMP ARTIICLE BROUGHT BACK MANY MEMORIES OF MY OLDER BROTHER AND HIS FRIENDS BUILDING THEIR OWN SKI JUMP ON THE STEEP (CLARENCE AVE. ) SIDE OF TOWER HILL IN PROSPECT PARK. IT WASN’T A COMMERCIAL JUMP, BUT THE BOYS WERE IN THEIR TEENS (NINETEEN THIRTIES) AND WHEN THEY COULDN’T GET TO A BIG SKI PLACE, THEY WOULD SKI DOWN THAT SIDE OF THE HILL OVER THE PRETTY GOOD SIZED JUMP THEY BUILT. WOE BE UNTO ANY YOUNGER KID *LIKE ME AND MY FRIENDS) WHO WANTED TO CLIMB ON OR OTHERWISE DESECRATE THAT JUMP….MY FRIENDS AND I TRIED AND WERE YELLED AT AND CHASED OFF WITH NO HESITATION….BILL SOUTH WAS ONE OF THE BEST SKIERS IN THE AREA AND AS AN ADULT, HE MOVED TO THE MOUNTAINOUS WEST SO HE COULD SKI ALL THE TIME….HOWIE WILCOX WAS ANOTHER LOCAL SKI BUM….AND MY BROTHER, BILL HUNTER, HELD HIS OWN, TOO.

    • David Smith on

      Thanks, Joan, I’m currently researching the locations of all the ski jumps and ski “bumps”” made of snow pack in Minneapolis parks. I hope to have new info soon.


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